Madame Du Châtelet


Acclaimed in the Décade d’Augsbourg, a German “Who’s Who” produced between 1741 and 1755, as one of the outstanding erudites of her time, Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise Du Châtelet (1706–49), considered one of the first women scientists, was relegated after her death to the Enlightenment’s shadows, from which she has emerged only recently. Brilliant and passionate, as fun-loving as she was hard-working, “la divine Émilie” was both admired and loathed by her peers, stunned as they were by the nerve of an eighteenth-century female who was as capable of debating men on the laws of physics as she was of performing the role typically assigned to her gender. She left in her wake a series of lovers in the best tradition of intrigue among French royals—or rather among intellectuals, long before the Existentialists and the French avant-garde.

more from Cabinet here.